Magnificent Petrel Pterodroma [brevipes] magnificens
(A newly recognised taxon : either a subspecies of Collared or more likely a distinct species)
South of Solomon Islands, April 2007
© A. R. Dean
At the time of its observation, during the 'Western Pacific Odyssey' in April 2007, the Pterodroma in these photos was assumed to be a dark-phase Collared Petrel on the basis of its overall appearance. However, the distribution and configuration of black on the underwing caused discussion and consternation, as the photographs showed it to be far more extensive than indicated in the literature for Collared. Indeed, the width of the black band on this individual is greater than indicated for any other 'Cookilaria' petrel, whereas species such as Black-winged Petrel are usually indicated to have a distinctly broader band than Collared.
It was not until three years later that a 'new' taxon was described by Bretagnolle & Shirihai (2010) from the Banks Islands, Vanuatu. (The Vanuatu archipelago lies a few hundred miles to the SE of the Solomon Islands archipelago, both groups belonging to the oceanic sub-region of Melanesia, NE of Australia.) In their paper Bretagnolle & Shirihai suggest that this form is perhaps a subspecies of Collared Petrel but may well warrant recognition as a distinct species, for which the authors propose the name 'Magnificent Petrel' P. [brevipes] magnificens. A key character is the pattern of the underwing, precisely as displayed by the petrel in these photographs. The petrel observed in 2007 is clearly attributable to this 'new' taxon.
Below are photos from Brian Hill, Richard Porter and Alan Tate, fellow participants of the 2007 'Western Pacific Odyssey'.
© Brian Hill
© R. F. Porter
© Alan Tate